HMC Sportscars was founded by brothers Graham and Peter Holmes but was formerly known as Harrier Cars Ltd. In 1984 they embarked on a project to build Austin Healey replicas. These were never intended to be kit cars as the brothers decided that the standard of kit cars produced at the time was so poor they did not want to be associated with that industry.
The design and build of the first car was started in June 1984 and was completed exactly a year later. Unfortunately there was no type approval scheme available in the UK for small manufacturers and the only legal way to sell and register a car was as a kit. Consequently, when they took their creation to its first public debut it could only be offered as a kit but Graham and Peter had decided it would only be sold as a completed car but on paper would be shown to have been completed by the purchaser. So in reality there would be no kits sold.
This first outing was the Motor 100 event which took place at Silverstone in 1985. The car was seen there by David Benson, a motoring journalist writing for the Daily Express at the time, as a result of this show and one picture and 1 paragraph in the Express, the Holmes brothers received 500 enquiries in the post over the following week. All of these enquiries were answered and the replies analysed, it was soon apparent that the brothers had built the right car but the wrong model, they had built an Austin Healey 100/6, rally replica, the serious enquirers wanted a finished turnkey car with wind up windows, walnut dash board, radio and as many other refinements that could be offered. It was also apparent that price was not an issue provided the quality was high.
Armed with this information the brothers decided to start again, this time they based it on the last of the Austin Healeys, the 3000 Mk3. It was re-designed to be the successor to the Mk3 making it a thoroughly modern and sophisticated machine with independent suspension all round, a lightweight aluminium V8 engine, electric windows, electric and heated mirrors, walnut dashboard, full instrumentation, good heating and ventilation, 2+2, stereo sound system and options for PAS, A/C and an aluminium body.
It took a further 18 months to design a build this second car but when complete it was shown to Geoffrey Healey ( son of Donald ) who immediately agreed to endorse the product and licence the Healey name to the brothers.
At this time The Healey Motor Company was launched and this first prototype was subsequently registered and badged as a Healey Mk4.
With Geoffrey on board the product launch was arranged and the press invited, this was to be a big day, the re- launch of the Healey name but just 2 days before the launch, Jensen Cars made a claim through their solicitors that they owned the rights to the Healey marque and that if Healey and Holmes were to use this marque they would take legal action. This was a bitter blow so the brothers acting on legal advice, removed the Healey badge for the launch and agreed not to use the name until Healey and Jensen had resolved the issue.
In the period which followed the brothers started to fulfil some of the orders which they had taken as a result of the launch. Unfortunately, soon after they started, the country entered a recession and their bank, which was facilitating the overdraft which was funding the brothers suddenly decided to withdraw the overdraft and call in the debt. This was another major blow, it was a large sum of money and without it, it would not be possible to start serious production even if they did have the Healey name.
The only answer was to find investment for the company, this proved to be very difficult during a recession and took over 2 years to achieve. Finally a private investor, founder of Interlink Express, Richard Gabriel decided he would back the venture.
Graham and Peter had made another 5 cars during this period and had decided to register the name HMC Sportscars as the Healey dispute was still not resolved. Also during this period they had researched type approval regulations in other countries and discovered that Germany had a scheme for testing one off or small series production cars. This meant that HMCs could be produced and sold as new turnkey cars, not kits. Consequently, a left hand drive version was developed and interest in Germany was stimulated.
With the injection of cash from Richard Gabriel a factory was secured and modified to suit the production of cars. A team of workers was hired and trained.
TUV development and testing was started in readiness for sales.
A German dealer was appointed and orders started to flow. The first LHD car was made and submitted for final testing to TUV Hannover and after completion, delivered to the first customer in Germany.
Production commenced and 7 cars were built during the first year in the factory and although this seems low it was achieved whilst all the other work was taking place.
In year 2, 19 cars were produced and things were starting to run smoothly, but during that year the next blow was delivered when the UK government decided to withdraw from the Exchange Rate Mechanism which controlled the strength of the Pound relative to the Deutsche Mark. Over the following 2 years the price of the HMC in Germany rose by 48%. It was hurting sales and it was clear that a new market was needed.
As a result of this increase in price HMC made its worst decision to date, responding to pleas from their German dealer they reduced the price of the car by what turned out to be exactly their profit margin. In the following 12 months they produced 37 cars but at the end of it they had made just £1500.
Fortunately the UK had just introduced the National Low Volume Type Approval Scheme, this was similar to the German system but still required much work and money to comply with the requirements. It was finally completed and the first RHD HMC to roll out of the factory was ordered by Richard Gabriel the company chairman. This car, registered as L502 YAD bears the chassis number SA904943GPURT0001, being the first RHD car produced in the factory. Cars produced before the type approval and adoption of the World Identifier Numbering system were numbered using a different system, simply 0001, 0002 etc, there were just 7 of these.
Sales in the UK were difficult because it was difficult for people to understand that it was not a kit car simply because of the history of car production in the UK.
The company soldiered on producing 178 cars in total but it was extremely difficult, sales became increasingly difficult, increasing legislation cost and the difficulties in meeting the legislation, many parts started to become problematic, the stock control system they had installed was not 2000 compliant so failed on the 1st January 2000, a replacement system was not only very expensive to buy but very time consuming to install. These and many more issues finally influenced the decision to close the doors and in June 2001 this was done.
Since the closure Peter completed another car which was sold into Germany and Graham is just finishing a car he has built for himself to his own specification. These 2 cars bring the total made to 180.
It is not known how many survive, Graham knows of 3 total losses but there could be more he knows nothing about so he is starting a register to try and find out how many survive and what condition they are in.